FDA’s Taken a Stand Against Tobacco, But What’s the Role of Cities & States?


By Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, Reporting from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act: Regulatory Science and the Tobacco Industryat Harvard School of Public Health on “The Regulation of Tobacco by State and Local Governments in the 21st Century” by Douglas Blanke of William Mitchell College of Law

Blanke shares that for the most part, state, cities and counties have led tobacco control efforts despite federal acts. For federal policies to take place, states and cities need to be active in enforcing federal policies and enhancing current policies. So what can be done?

6 Roles of States and Cities

  1. A Force Multiplier – states will enforce federal laws by compliance checks, as ears to the grounds to understand applicability
  2. Voice of Experience – wrestling with tobacco industry hasn’t always been pretty for states, but states have the first-hand experience of means to do this work
  3. Accountability – states/cities hold the tobacco industry accountable on the grassroots level and have to defend against the opposition
  4. Partners in policy – states and cities have more jurisdiction and power in certain ways to act that FDA does not. For instance, states and cities can add more bans and more warning labels than federally required.
  5. Experimentation – states and cities can experiment with new policies and counter-marketing when the federal government doesn’t have that same leeway.
  6. Hold the most powerful tools – States have the most powerful levers to achieving tobacco elimination visions

Though there are many steps that Blanke suggests for states and cities, he stresses that in many ways the FDA needs states and cities more than they need the FDA. So don’t be thinking the role of states and cities will be overshadowed by FDA announcements and acts or that it wasn’t the work of states and cities that got us here!

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